It's hard not to fall in love with Kemp & Eden. Effortless, bohemian style, outgoing but not overbearing personalities, and voices like angels — literally, this musical duo gives you that weak-in-the-knees, obsessed-with-a-rock-star feeling — without the rock-star pretension. And perhaps it's because they're story is so real, so unique that they keep each other grounded. At least, that's the vibe we got when we met up with them for an exclusive photo shoot and interview.
Their history goes like this: The girls met when they were both under the age of 8 and have been best friends ever since. Though Kemp went on to become a model (and a very skilled one at that) and Eden a painter (and a very skilled one at that), they kept in touch as BFFs are wont to do, and it wasn't long until they were discovered by Kemp's now boyfriend, Sean Lennon (yes, that Sean Lennon). It's his veteran ear but mostly their thoughtful lyrics that make the EP so addictive.
Take their song "Sugarcane Sword" as an example — sorrowful and soothing yet somehow hopeful, their voices mix into a blend of floating notes you can listen to on repeat at any time of day. It can wake you up, lull you to sleep, or serve as the background music to your otherwise stressful workday. But then, of course, when the song is over, the girls are laughing with each other and their audience about a near bee-sting accident where bees (and any animal, really) aught not to go. The girls have vowed to be "virgins," after all — they swear it'll make them "see unicorns"! We're not 100% sure about that theory, but as far as their formula for ethereal beauty mixed with over the top vocal talent? Well, we're sold on that. Click through to fall in love with the girls and their music.
Photographed by Kava Gorna
Let's start by talking about how you guys met. You met when you were 4 and 6, right? So, how exactly did you meet?
Eden: "We met at a lake in our town in Georgia. My dad had brought me down there and so had her dad. She had just moved down from West Point, New York, was it?"
Kemp: "It was. West Point Military Academy."
E: "And she had built this net out of, like, a picnic blanket or something."
K: "I had invented a contraption to catch ducklings because I was obsessed with birds, and I kind of got her in on my plan. I had tied a string to all four corners of a picnic cloth and then climbed up in a tree and put bread crumbs in the middle of it, and when the ducklings would come, we'd pull on the strings, and they'd gently be pulled up in this picnic blanket. We'd then climb down and, like, molest them. So, that was…it worked. [To Eden] Thanks for your help."
E: "That's how we met. We became friends after that."
And from there, did you guys move to New York together?
E: "No, that was a long time later. She moved to New York to be a model."
K: "We got separated. She went to college, and I became a model, and when she was done in college, she came up here with me because Sean had heard a couple of our songs and wanted to produce it, so she moved in with us."
So, you kept in touch and made music all through college?
K: "We always kept in touch. We're like sisters."
Your relationship seems very much like sisters. What would you say each of you bring to the relationship? It's clearly such an intimate relationship.
E: "It is, it really is. But we're very different."
K: "We're super different. Completely opposites."
E: "But it's quite complementary. She's very outgoing and crazy, and I'm..."
K: "She grounds me. Like, she's always the responsible one. Unless she drinks, then it's like a totally different story. Our roles reverse when she drinks, and I start taking care of her, and she's dancing on tables. But, no, our whole life she was always the parent, always the responsible one, and mature. I was always a little wild and out there, so we grounded each other. We made pacts to be virgins forever."
E: "We had this idea that only virgins could see unicorns, and we were determined to see one."
How old were you when you made that pact?
E: "Oh, god…"
K: "That was like last year."
E: "Yeah, just like last week."
But you feel that because you're so different that's what makes your friendship work?
E: "Yeah, it helps. She definitely pushes me to cross boundaries I wouldn't normally even go near."
What's the quality in one another that you admire most?
K: "Your discipline."
E: "Her intellect. She's brilliant."
K: "Her discipline, yeah. And she's an incredible painter."
Oh, you paint, as well?
K: "She's an incredible painter."
E: "That's what I went to school for. And I'm doing a series with Charlotte now."
Let's shift gears a bit and talk about the music. Have you guys always played together? How did that come to be?
K: "Um, all the songs on this EP we just put out were written when I was 14. Sean heard a couple of them and wanted to produce an album, so that's why she moved to New York. We've been recording very casually, because Sean's also juggling his band with me and playing with his mom. They're about to record a new Yoko record in a couple of days, and I'll be mixing the ghost record while they're doing that, so we'll be like tag teaming."
Obviously you've changed so much from when you're 14. What is it like playing these songs that you wrote in that age? How have they taken on a different role?
K: "Sometimes, it's frustrating to be playing such old material, but I think we've breathed a lot of new light into it. Since we study music theory, we've written some new chords. Some of them we haven't changed at all, but they definitely take on new meaning as you get older. I was writing a lot about social commentary and relationships…not even that I have necessarily experience, but just that I have observed. Since then, I have experienced them…we both have, actually. So, it seems a little more true to sing them."
Do you think at all about the message that you're making as two women creating music?
K: "I think it's harder for women to work together than men sometimes, but for us it's not because we are so different. We're not competitive at all, and we have really different tastes, but that makes it more interesting, because I have to lean more in the romantic direction, and she has to lean more in the more edgy, weird direction. It's cool. I don't know. I like it."
What are some of the themes that the album covers?
E: "A lot of social commentary."
K: "A lot of bird references. I love ornithology."
E: "Every song is very different."
K: "Not a lot of love songs."
There's really only one love song, right?
K: "Yeah, there's just the one love song. And it's kind of a breakup song."
E: "The others are a little more…there's one about…"
K: "They're more sarcastic."
E: "Yeah, they're sarcastic. There's one about a girl who is trying to commit suicide and fails to do so because she gets caught in the fisherman's net. There's one about observations of the world."
K: "When I first started modeling, I felt very cynical about the world because I met a lot of unsavory characters, so a lot of the songs are about that. Oh, and there is one about the bird that I was raising. I used to raise birds in shoeboxes, and one of them died a tragic death. I had taught them how to fly, and the next morning I woke up, and it had flown into the glass window and broken its neck. I was really heartbroken, so I wrote a song about that."
How would you describe your own style and the style of each other? You obviously have really defined styles that are also so different.
E: "They are so different. We both like vintage things, but I like things that are more girly, a little bit more feminine and flowery and lyrical, and Charlotte likes things…. Well, [to Kemp] you like those things, too, but she also gives it a twist."
K: "I like Lolita-esque stuff, but I also like to be a boy, too. I can't make up my mind if I want to be Lolita or a boy."
E: "She mixes and matches a lot."
Where are some of the places you draw inspiration from?
K: "Pre-20th century."
E: "Oh, yeah, definitely. Victorian era, the Renaissance. Yeah, that's kind of our thing."
K: "I love that whole aesthetic. Victorian science, especially. Like, anatomy. Old anatomy."